CNV79 | 22.07.2014
01 . Emergent Forms
'Emergent Forms' is composed entirely of recorded electronic signals, which were processed to varying degrees, edited and arranged. My work on this piece started when I bought a JrF induction coil pickup, which can record electronic signals. I had no idea what the electronic signals would sound like, so I started experimenting with recording the sounds of the electronic objects around me, such as computers, microwaves, fridges, lights, phones, and many others. I then began the process of composing with these humming, buzzing and hissing sounds as the sole source material. Some of the sounds in their original state were already musical; some devices would emit a pretty hum, or sing in a major chord beneath human hearing. Other sounds at first seemed unmusical, but in some cases had surprisingly musical properties hidden within them that could be coaxed out with signal processing. I was fascinated to find that by processing a particular segment of microscopic buzzy noise, for example, I found ranges of musical harmonics that formed perfect patterns when viewed on a frequency spectrum. An idea underlying this work is thus that of 'emergent forms': the complex musical properties that seemed to emerge from noisy, unmusical signals.
Recorded between August and September 2013 in Rosebud and Newport, Victoria, Australia.
Thanks to Francis Li for listening to previous versions of this piece and providing insightful feedback, and to Miguel Angel Tolosa for publishing this piece.
[ Timothy Allen ]
An hour-long work comprised of processed electronic signals, that is to say the sounds emitted by electric devices such as lights, refrigerators, computers etc. Allen, as you can read on the Conv page, was able to unearth all sorts of "hidden" sounds and has woven them together into this entirely enjoyable mesh of hums, static, quasi-rhythmic clicks and more. It can drift into spacier areas than I'm comfortable with from time to time but Allen always manages to wrest things back into more interesting, grittier places, incorporating snatches of voices (phone conversation?) and other harder-edged sounds. Just as I'm thinking it's overstaying its welcome, a new element is introduced that makes the wait worthwhile, as occurs at approximately the 53 minute mark with a wonderfully ringing tone, supported by low, stuttering growls and sandy washes. Check it out.
[ Brian Olewnick ]
Avant Music News
The air is full of electromagnetic signals undetectable to the naked ear. With the proper equipment this ordinarily unheard soundworld can be made audible, recorded and cultivated into musical objects. For Emergent Forms, Australian sound experimentalist Timothy Allen used a JrF induction coil pickup to record signals from a variety of everyday sources—household appliances and fixtures, computers, and the like. The recordings were then arranged and processed in order to allow their latent pitches and harmonics to emerge. And in this hour-long single track of mutating textures and timbres one can hear a kind of elemental musicality asserting itself out of the raw sonic material of buzzes, crackles and humming drones. The piece is heavily textured–almost tangibly so, as much of the pitch aspect of the sound is fused into its timbres. These latter make for a thick weave of rough and burred and—somehow visual imagery comes to mind—shimmering, iridescent layers of sound. When pitches do emerge they tend to move slowly, singly or in vertical stacks; the harmonies are often static and suspended, though occasionally resolving. Allen’s extracted sounds can be heard mimicking the voices of a pipe organ, tubular bells, or other pitched percussion. The signals’ periodicity is brought out in the variable rhythms of clicks, chirps and beat-frequencies that run throughout like a kind of subterranean sound stream. Evocative stuff from the ostensible silence that surrounds us.
[ Daniel Barbiero ]
The air is thick with electricity. By rendering audible the electronic signals of household objects – phones, fridges, computers, lights – Tim Allen generates a symphony that is happening all the time. In my living room, right now. Objects humming and sighing at eachother; continuous drones co-mingling over my head, slotting into beautiful harmonies undetected. It’s a disturbing and wonderful thought, and while I love the idea of each household generating its own distinctive harmonic fingerprint, I become aware of the very thick and serrated signals casually sidling through my internal organs, intersecting my own bodily electronic pulses.
These tangents of thought aside, the piece itself is beautifully assembled. I feel like Allen is drifting through his home, lingering upon single objects or dialogues between devices – frequencies crossfade as he shuffles out of one room and into another, rendering the whole hour as a seamless digital bath, tilting between different timbres and densities. The section at 24 minutes sounds like the moments before a shuttle launch: monitoring pulses beating out of primitive speakers, last-minute advice from mission control gurgling inaudibly, stifling imaginary hums of my own psychological unease. Elsewhere, miracles happen by accident – two separate signals fit immaculately into a major-key interval, like a divine voice embedded in silence, and Allen suspends the moment like a climactic romance; a meditation on worldly interconnections that usually transcend our senses, and allusions to a sonic universe unfolding without us.
[ Jack Chuter ]
CON-V EDITION | 2015